The New Heathrow Terminal 5

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a week or so now and finally I can’t think of anything else to write about so I can now take the piss out of the Brits and their brand spanking new Terminal 5 that opened to the public on March 27, 2008. And what an opening it was. On the day of the terminal opening, British Airways, which is the sole occupant of the new terminal cancelled 34 flights due to “teething problems” and was later forced to suspend passenger check-in. A malfunction in the new “state of the art” baggage handling system meant that nearly all flights took off without bags, and people faced delays of up to four hours as a result of waiting for baggage. On March 27th and 28th, 100 flights were cancelled whilst delays continued for a third day. British Aviation Minister Jim Fitzpatrick dutifully admitted that over 28,000 bags owned by passengers were “missing”. Finally on April 2nd, British Airways reported that they were to send 15,000 of the delayed passenger bags destined for mainland Europe to Milan for sorting and return to customers-many people still haven’t received their bags.

There’s nothing quite as exciting as a controversial new terminal opening for Europes largest airport and the largest daily receiver of International passengers in the world. After years of environmentally protested construction and over $8.6 billion, yes thats $8.6 billion with B spent, the geniuses at the BAA forgot to test everything out and opened with the global media in attendance to the moans and groans of displaced passengers, malfunctioning brand new equipment and seemingly a bunch of people who had no clue what was going on.
I can only wish I was there as an onlooker to watch this folly unfold. Of course if I was a passenger I would’ve been irritated as anybody but as the invited media has reported, it was a disaster of epic proportions and I love how they deemed the issues as “teething”. I didn’t realize that airports teethed. I’ve never seen a new mega multi million dollar baggage handling system with teeth before and I’ve certainly never heard of such a disaster from a country such as the UK. But it really is fitting that as soon as Queen Elizabeth cut the ribbon on the new terminal-it simply didn’t work.

It’s funny because I have been reading a lot of the media reports on the new terminal as I haven’t been there since it opened to see for myself and the truth is-it wasn’t even necessary to build in the first place. If you travel through Heathrow a lot as I do, then you’ve certainly noticed all the hassels over the past few years in the airport that was designed with hassels in mind. Reports call it a cathedral of a terminal with a lot of light coming through and it seems very airy says one intrepid CNN reporter (like I care). However, it appears it’s just window dressing and apparently doesn’t help with the mass congestion in the airport, nor does it bring new runway capacity. However, have no fear because the BAA says that “eventually”, terminal 5 is expected to relieve some of the congestion and hassle that the airport has become renowned for.

When that will be, we may never know. However, I look forward to being miserable transferring through terminal 5 just like I have been for years in terminals 1-4. And one other piece of good news for travelers that they can ponder while they’re delayed and sleeping on the floor is that the new terminal has been built without the use of interior support columns which the architect claims will help its 400 meter long by 170 meter deep terminal rearrange itself with ease if necessary…doesn’t that make you feel better?

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  1. Thats pretty funny. I have traveled a lot through Heathrow and have endured many miserable times. Hopefully it’ll end up working out for them.

  2. What a disaster this is, I was just through the new terminal and it is a monstrosity and the waits are still awful.

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